Football: Blazer says 1998, 2010 Cups tainted

Agence France-Presse
Football: Blazer says 1998, 2010 Cups tainted


Meanwhile, FIFA staff gave Sepp Blatter a standing ovation, even as his resignation fails to quell a corruption storm

ZURICH, Switzerland – FIFA staff gave Sepp Blatter a standing ovation on Wednesday, June 3, even as his resignation failed to quell a corruption storm that could yet touch world football’s fallen leader.

About 400 staff at the FIFA headquarters applauded the 79-year-old Swiss official the day after Blatter announced he would step down.

“There was a long ovation lasting several minutes and Mr Blatter was very emotional,” a FIFA spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

However, later on Wednesday storm clouds gathered as testimony from disgraced former North American football supremo Chuck Blazer revealed that both the campaigns for the 1998 and 2010 World Cups had involved he and fellow FIFA executives taking bribes.

Blazer’s testimony is a key plank in the US investigation against FIFA, which the federal court document describes as a “Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization.”

The 70-year-old – who is presently out on bail and being treated for rectal cancer – has admitted to a raft of charges related to his leadership of the North and Central American soccer body CONCACAF and membership of FIFA’s executive committee.

However, in order to get a lighter punishment he agreed to wear a microphone and record conversations with his fellow FIFA members.

In the papers released on Wednesday, the other FIFA executives identified as co-conspirators are not named.

“Among other things, I agreed with other persons in or around 1992 to facilitate the acceptance of a bribe in conjunction with the selection of the host nation for the 1998 World Cup,” Blazer said in his plea.

The 1998 World Cup was eventually awarded to France, ahead of a bid by Morocco. Another court document, detailing the charges, says that Blazer was present when a co-conspirator accepted a bribe in Morocco.

Blazer goes on to accept that he and “others on the FIFA executive committee” agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa to host the World Cup in 2010.

South African officials have strongly denied allegations by US investigators that they paid $10 million in bribes to secure the rights to host the competition.

Central to the claims about South Africa is former FIFA vice-president and former head of CONCACAF Jack Warner, who was placed on Interpol’s most wanted list on Wednesday.

The $10 million transfer went from the South African authorities to Warner, and was made through FIFA, although they say they were just the intermediary in the transaction.

Reports say US investigators believe FIFA’s combative secretary-general Jerome Valcke authorized the transfer and the money was intended as a bribe.

However, he insists that he had nothing to do with it.

“I have nothing to blame myself for and I certainly do not feel guilty so I do not even have to justify my innocence,” Valcke told France Info radio station.

BETTER TIMES. A file picture dated June 1, 2011 of FIFA President Joseph Blatter (R) greeting FIFA Executive Committee member Charles 'Chuck' Blazer (L) prior to the 61st FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland. Patrick B. Kraemer/EPA

“I don’t have the power to authorize a payment, especially one of $10 million, and above all one that comes from another account separate from FIFA,” added the 54-year-old.

Despite their denials, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into Blatter’s role in tens of millions of dollars of bribes given to football officials.

Most Wanted

Blatter’s decision to stand down sparked a race to take over as head of the world’s richest and most powerful sporting federation, with the vote not expected till at least December.

South Korean tycoon Chung Mong-Joon, Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, who was beaten by Blatter in a vote last Friday, May 29, and Brazilian football legend Zico all said they could take part.

Most eyes remain on Michel Platini, the UEFA president who failed in his bid as kingmaker last week.

Blatter, who has ruled FIFA for 17 years, won a fifth term in an election on Friday. But renewed criticism of his reign and new corruption revelations forced him into a corner.

“While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football –- the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football,” he told a press conference.

Who flips first?

US authorities have charged 14 football officials and sports company executives over more than $150 million in bribes.

The New York Times, which broke news of 7 arrests before the FIFA congress last week, quoted law enforcement officials and other sources to back their report that Blatter is now in the firing line.

“Now that people are going to want to save themselves, there’s probably a race to see who will flip on him first,” one source told ABC News.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused Wednesday, while on a trip to Latvia, to comment on the reports.

However, it emerged also on Wednesday that the Swiss authorities were yet to receive extradition requests from their American counterparts.

“We have not yet received formal extradition demands; we will release a statement when it happens,” said justice ministry spokesman Folco Gallia.

Aside from Warner being placed on Interpol’s most wanted list they also put former FIFA executive member Nicolas Leoz on it and issued an international alert.

Four heads of sports marketing companies have also been put on the list.

Leoz is in poor health and reportedly under house arrest in his native Paraguay.

In parallel to the US inquiry, Swiss prosecutors are looking into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar.

Qatar said Blatter’s resignation would have “no impact” on its World Cup preparations. The Kremlin also said Russia was “surprised” by the resignation but it was also going ahead with plans. – Eric Bernaudeau, AFP /

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